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Trash Day: Cheesy Historical Romance Edition (part the fourth)

I’ve decided to do a series of four blog posts chronicling my misadventures reading a piece of cheesy historical romance. Since the book in question (Susan Wiggs’s The Maiden of Ireland) is about 400 pages long, each post will cover roughly 100 pages of the novel. You can view previous entries of here, here, and here.

At this point, they leave London, Cromwell having secured Hawkins’s promise to stop the raids. Seeing as he’s married to the rebel leader now, one assumes this wouldn’t be too hard. Once they reach their castle in Ireland, they celebrate by having sex on the beach. Like, as soon as their feet touch sand. I don’t care how much you love a person, never have sex with them on a beach. You will get sand in all of your sensitive crevices.

Sandy cracks regardless, things are going pretty well for the newlyweds until Hawkins receives a letter telling him to deliver some horses to the English forces stationed nearby. He creeps off to do this secretly, but of course his wife finds out and man, is she one pissed off Irish chick.

Somehow on her way to deliver one hell of an ass kicking, she gets captured and taken to London, her husband being under the impression that he accidentally killed her (OOPS). She gets interrogated by Cromwell, but makes her escape (with her husband’s illegitimate daughter) when Cromwell drinks a poison cup of wine. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t iocane powder, but I can’t be entirely sure.

Meanwhile, her husband is defending the castle against the nearby English forces, when his wife come swooping in to the rescue. The only think I appreciated about this particular sequence was the role reversals. It was refreshing to see the woman rescue the man for once. Of course, the requisite happy ending follows. But then again, I’d honestly be a little disappointed if it didn’t.

Incredibly, one of the parts I found hardest to believe (apart from the language that makes a point of being stereotypically Irish), was that she wasn’t even mad about him not telling her about his daughter. Also, this revelations seems to wipe away all past wrongs. I wish this is how things worked in the real world. I would keep a stable of emergency kids to drag out at the slightest provocation.

That being said, I am never doing this again with such a long book. I love reading and this particular project made me dislike reading. I had to carrot-and-stick my way through the entire thing. I’ll probably do another one though, but with a short sci-fi/fantasy item. Think of Turkey Readings and that’ll be pretty close to my next Trash Day item. But probably not until sometime next year.

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Trash Day: Cheesy Historical Romance Edition (part the third)

I’ve decided to do a series of four blog posts chronicling my misadventures reading a piece of cheesy historical romance. Since the book in question (Susan Wiggs’s The Maiden of Ireland) is about 400 pages long, each post will cover roughly 100 pages of the novel. You can view previous entries of here and here.

Jeez, just when you think it’s safe to be a priest in Ireland, Hawkins almost gets captured by priest takers, whom he then hurls over the side of the castle wall. But wait! He’s found out that the missing priests are being held on an island; why they’re holding priest-a-palooza there isn’t explained. Of course, he and Caitlin must go rescue one, which seems to be less an exercise in spirituality than an excuse to show up Cromwell and the Roundheads. (Considering that Cromwell holds Hawkins’s daughter [who is developing a whopping case of Stockholm Syndrome, btw], this seems pretty darn foolhardy).

However, they are captured by an English frigate and another chief Roundhead learns that Caitlin is the leader of the Irish rebel group, saying that he will bring Cromwell her head. Rather impulsively, Hawkins says that he will marry her in order to protect her and is rather astonished to hear that she is, to say the least, rather reluctant. Because learning that the man you almost had sex with was a secret enemy agent is a sure-fire inducement to matrimony, right?

But they go through with it anyways. Blah blah blah marriage ceremony on a ship, blah blah blah flowery sexy-times description. Although, I’m concerned that she is resistant almost the entire way through the consummation and only offers a token capitulation, which seems a little too close to rape for comfort. For a character that wears her independence like a weapon, this doesn’t really jive.

Their journey then takes them to London, because Hawkins still has to bring Cromwell the head of the Irish-rebel leader. A small matter that the head in question is attached to the body of his wife, I guess. Somehow, I really doubt Cromwell is the sort to laugh this trick off with a hearty guffaw.

On their way to certain doom, they run into Caitlin’s old love interest, Alonso, who apparently decided to keep writing love letters to her even though he got married and had a son. I was hoping a catfight would break out at this point.

They meet Cromwell, which runs about as well as they could expect, really, given that neither of them dies. Caitlin leaves before Hawkins meets his daughter (who by this time has turned into a proper little Puritan). I just can’t believe he hasn’t told her HE HAS A DAUGHTER. And really, since they are now married, so does she.

The reading ends on a rather odd note “He must prove himself to her. Mere words were not enough for she was a woman of action. And in the proving, he would win her love.” Yeah. ‘Cause repeatedly lying to a woman is a great way to win her affection.

And now for something that’s been bothering me since the beginning. The characters really shouldn’t be using the term Sassenach in this book. Yes, it is Gaelic and it does mean outlander and refers to Englishmen and Englishwomen, but it is Scottish Gaelic, not Irish Gaelic. Seriously, a modicum of research would have improved this book immensely.

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Trash Day: Cheesy Historical Romance Edition (part the second)

I’ve decided to do a series of four blog posts chronicling my misadventures reading a piece of cheesy historical romance. Since the book in question (Susan Wiggs’s The Maiden of Ireland) is about 400 pages long, each post will cover roughly 100 pages of the novel. You can view part one of my torment here.

When we last left the main characters, the male hero Hawkins (who also happens to be a false priest in league with Oliver Cromwell) was just captured in battle by the female main character Caitlin (who has a not-so-secret identity as the leader of a group of Irish rebels).

Once they return to the castle, for some reason Caitlin’s father goes off to look for Irish priests. Because apparently that’s better than going off to hunt dragons or something. Regardless, this leaves the post of clan chieftan empty.

Of course this results in a furious debate over who should take over, because STATUS! RESPONSIBILITY! UNLIMITED POTATOES!

Somewhat unfeasibly, the only contestant everyone can agree on is Caitlin. Well, everyone except her sister’s disgruntled husband. Let that be a lesson: don’t stiff a guy when you owe him an entire herd of cattle. He storms off in a huff, practically trailing streams of foreshadowing. You could almost hear him doing his best Terminator impression.

She goes through initiation and investiture rights, which don’t involve wearing shoes or having your hair bound for some reason. With her newfound sense of responsibility dawning, Caitlin and Hawkins are getting closer, and just when you think they’re FINALLY going to get to have some raunchy fun…

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand of course they get interrupted just as they’re about to have sex for the first time. Well, at least as a priest the guy’s used to having a case of blue balls, but damn, that’s harsh. THIS IS WHY WE KNOCK, PEOPLE. Or you know, don’t have sex outside on a hill next to your very-crowded-with-refugees castle.

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Trash Day: Cheesy Historical Romance Edition (part the first)

Due to a recent genre-shaming incident I experienced, I’ve decided to do a series of four blog posts chronicling my misadventures reading a piece of cheesy historical romance. Since the book in question is about 400 pages, each blog post will cover around 100 pages.

Maiden

The offender in question is Susan Wigg’s The Maiden of Ireland. Set during the mid 1600s, the book sees a false Cavalier priest go to Ireland at the behest of Oliver Cromwell so that he can destroy a band of rebel warriors. Of course, his cooperation is obtained because Cromwell has the false priest’s young illegitimate daughter and threatens to sell her to a brothel unless he complies.

(One could make the case that certainly Cromwell was a brutal military dictator, but Wiggs turns the man into a villain of Mr. Burns-type proportions. I mean, you can practically hear the man cackling and tenting his fingers. Kind of surprised he didn’t twirl his curly, Snidely Whiplash moustache and tie the girl down to some train tracks, to be honest. )

Destroying the band of Irish rebels involves, apparently, seducing the mistress of a castle (I really, really would love to see this job description on Craigslist) who also might, maybe, possibly be the leader of the rebels. Incidentally, this supposition requires you to ignore the descriptions of a large, muscled, and presumably armoured warrior in a big fight scene, but I digress.

This just about covers the events of the first 100 pages.

As my husband pointed out last night, setting a romance novel during the time of Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland isn’t the best idea, seeing as the Irish still remember the episode less than fondly, to say the least. Systematic ethnic cleansing doesn’t exactly get the romantic juices flowing.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re going to set it in a specific (although ill-advised) time period, please, please, please get a historically accurate costume on the cover. The green dress on the cover is general Medieval, at best. You would never see that outfit in that time period. It’s not even close to being appropriate and probably about 300 years out of date, at least.

Also, not really digging how her breasts are *that* close to being exposed. Next time, let’s aim for a costume that ISN’T two seconds away from a wardrobe malfunction, mkay?

 

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Maplecroft, aka Cthulhu lite

Ever thought that the Lizzie Borden story could use a dash of eldritch horror? If so, you’ll probably fall over your tentacles in getting to Cherie Priest’s H.P. Lovecraft-inspired novel Maplecroft.

According to the back of the book (which gives a much better spoiler-free description than I ever could), in Maplecroft Lizzie Borden must battle “…malevolent entities [that]…originate from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace [of Fall River, Massachusetts] with tides of nightmares and madness.”

I was prepared to find this book a little ridiculous. It is, after all, inserting Lovecraft’s mythos into a fictionalized story about a famous, real-life murder suspect (remember, she WAS acquitted). Oddly enough, this mixture of tentacles and true crime is a surprisingly good read. It’s kind of like bacon and chocolate: you’d never in your life think of putting them together, BUT OH MY GLOB YOU GUYS IT WORKS.

That being said, I don’t know that I quite buy Borden as a lesbian. In all honesty, such a ‘revelation’ feels a little tacked on. Just because she had few (if any) suitors and never married hardly leads to the conclusion that she must have preferred the love of women. To me, it seems a cheap and lazy way to insert some modernity or edginess. Also, hot, hot lesbian sexytimes.

All in all, it’s a slightly more reliable source of Lizzie Borden goodness than Lifetime’s made-for-TV event Lizzie Borden Took an Axe (check out the trailer here). I know, because glutton for punishment that I am, I watched the entire thing.

Given that the novel is but the first book in a series, if the inscription on the front cover is anything to go by, there’s more axe-thumping Cthulhu goodness headed our way. R’lyeh be praised.

 

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Blood Red

Today I’ll be reviewing the 10th entry in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, Blood Red.

In case you haven’t read any of these books, this series reimagines fairy and folk tales in an alternate, Edwardian-era world in which magic does, in fact, exist. It is practiced by mages and masters who specialize in air, fire, earth, and water magic, aided by elemental creatures like sylphs, salamanders, satyrs, and undines.

The fairy tale in this case is Little Red Riding Hood, the heroine of which just happens to be an earth master who is also a werewolf hunter. It’s also set in Germany, quite a switch for a series that’s almost always set in Great Britain.

Normally, I’m a huge fan of this series. I know it’s the literary equivalent of cotton candy, but I just don’t care, they’re too much fun. But (and we’re talking a Nicki Minaj-sized one here), this novel felt like the author totally phoned it in.

Granted, at 10 books in this series alone, a decline in quality is understandable, perhaps even to be expected. That being said, I still found it hard to get invested in the story. Honestly, I think there was too much time spent in setting up the story and not enough time spent on plot developments (the first big action only took place about ¾ of the way through the book).

Also worth noting is that this is the first time the author has wrote about vampires and werewolves. Interesting idea, but it doesn’t feel genuine to the rest of the Elemental Masters world. It almost seems like the author is including it to take advantage of the (now somewhat waning) supernatural trend.

The bottom line? If you’re already a fan of the series, like I am, it’s worth reading. Otherwise, as this is definitely one of the author’s weaker entries in the series, I’d say the casual reader could probably bypass it.

However, If you’re just looking to get into the series, start with The Fire Rose, a take on Beauty and the Beast. And although they aren’t technically Elemental Masters books, I’d also recommend reading The Black Swan and Firebird.

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